Asiad unfurls with China's brilliant show

Indian contingent gets warm applause

Asiad unfurls with China's brilliant show

Creating a dream world where anything was possible, the giants of the continent served up an unforgettable treat for the senses, marking the opening of the 16th Asian Games.

Pearl river, the third largest river in the country, was the stage and the city of Guangzhou served as the background for the 150-minute spectacle that put all previous ceremonies to shade and set a benchmark that will be difficult to meet for future hosts.

Long-kept secret

As the athletes from the continent and a big audience took in the sights, sounds and colours whipped up in magical manner in front, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao declared the Games open, his message a signal for a long-kept secret to unfold.

He Chong, China’s Olympic champion in three-metre springboard diving, held the key to that, as he jogged with the torch and went underneath the cauldron that had risen in the middle of the stage. With two kids for company, Chong lit a firecracker that sent up sizzling sparks to light the cauldron, as fireworks from the river bank and also from the 600-metre-tall Guangzhou tower lit up the night sky.

Water, the elixir of life, was the main element of the show as a Guangzhou kid on a floating crystal leaf set off scenes of ethereal beauty on a stage in the river—flying horsemen, fisher folk in a ship daring a tempestuous ocean, fairies and goddesses in shimmering costumes, blooming flowers and even a brief love story.

Breathless spectators had more in store as water skiiers sent the pulse racing and an amazing acrobatic display by 180 men up the eight giant screens merged technology and art into a deadly cocktail. Quietly in the background, the athletes, journeying in beautifully-lit boats, then arrived to bring the spectators firmly back on earth.

Gagan Narang, the proud Indian flag-bearer, led in a nattily dressed contingent which drew a warm applause while China, fielding a massive team of 977 athletes, as expected, received the loudest cheers from the gathering.

As the fireworks faded away and the boats took the athletes home, the cheers still echoed in the ears, and the images lingered. What can China come up with next—perhaps a show in space?

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